Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The essential laptop repair tool

What takes it so long to design a desoldering tool that works?

The weakest link on my laptop broke - the power connector. After getting a set of precision screw driver from Lowes, I dissembled my laptop for the first time. I hope it's a simple job to replace the DC connector. But I was hopelessly wrong. The DC connector contacts needed resoldering. To get to the system board, I needed to take some components apart first. I kept unscrewing things, hoping the next screw would be the last. But I ended up taking everything apart, with little hope of putting them together correctly again. There are so many bit and pieces here and there, connectors all over, and miniature screws of different sizes that I couldn't even see properly with my naked eyes.

I took everything apart, just to find out that I could not clear the DC power connector's soldering holes. The tiny holes are filled with old solder. I could not insert the connector into position to resolder.

My classic solder sucker, in the form of a syringe, never really worked. The recoil action will pull the tip away from compact electronics, nowhere near the holes to be desoldered. I saw this new type of sucker on the Radioshack website, and something else. It's promising so I went to have a look.

I saw some standalone rubber like squeezing pumps, which make a lot of sense compared to plungers. But I don't know if there is enough suction. Then I checkout this monster combing a pump and a high wattage soldering iron. It just make so much sense. My only reservations are that if a lot of heat is needed to apply to the board, and if the board is more likely to be damaged. The other question is if this is any good, why take it so long to see something like this?

I think a lot of designers don't like to be seen holding a soldering iron. Many hobbyist don't want to be associated with repair technicians. Repair technicians are proud of their skills. So nobody needs a desoldering tool that actually works.

Perhaps it's the cost. The classic plunger last a long time, suitable for the salary and budget of repair technicians. Rubber squeezers would have to be replaced frequently. Now this monster cost more than a standard soldering iron. In the past this wouldn't be popular. But now, material and things are so cheap that a soldering iron cost next to nothing, and the two in one desoldering cost next to next to nothing.

I can vouch for it. Nothing can be more compact than a laptop. I just heat that thing up, apply solder, release the pump, and the soldering tags on the board are clean as new. What took it so long to appear on the market? Though it can be dangerous. If you squeeze the bulb by accident, steam and molten solder will blow out.

Now laptop repair or upgrade is so simple after all! I was so surprised to find out that Dell published excellent repair guides on their website. I wasted so much time searching for repair guides on the web, and taking things apart myself.

Without the guide it's hopeless to put things together again. Dell listed all the screws sizes, their numbers, and where they should be used. Dell also listed the sequences to do things, for example, if you want to get to the system board, what else you have to disassemble first. I did managed to put everything together easily. But since I didn't follow procedure to take it apart, I made some mistakes. The score:

1 screw missing
2 screws unused
blue tooth module damaged

The laptop is working fine without the screws. I never used the bluetooth module anyway. A working laptop again - priceless.

I think my time are wisely invested. The laptop was never used as anything other than a browser, and a video player. I did some work on it but I prefer to work on the desk and a desktop is much more economical to upgrade frequently. A desktop is always more powerful than a laptop too.

When my laptop can't keep up with windows and fat software, I can always load linux, which would turn it into a faster browser and video player. Beats the $300 laptops at the moment.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Book review: The 4-hour work week

Tim has a blog to promote his book. I was reluctant to write a review on his book or his blog, because a book once I trashed, kept rising fast on the Amazon rank. His did get a lot of publicity everywhere, including TV. His book did get to the top of the New York Times best sellers' list. I was really disappointed by the non-fiction buying public. Don't they watch enough infomercial already?

I do agree with him on a few things. His favorite cities were San Francisco, Tokyo, Frankfurt and Buenos Aires, in descending order of living expenses. I would add London on top though. I also share his taste of Trade Joe's wine, well received by wine experts, but at only a few dollars a bottle.

First, let's look at his qualification. He called himself a serial entrepreneur, but never reviewed what his past or current business were. Understandably, his wasn't proud of his businesses, otherwise he wouldn't use the term serial. If you get something big going, you want to build it up to rival Bill Gates, Google or many other smaller flies that the big guys will acquire.

He's in the business to make money. Not that much obviously, because he is arguing that he's the new rich. He has plenty of leisure time, a very high quality of living. That's not surprising if he enjoys wine at a few dollars a bottle, while in a classy restaurant you don't even get a glass.

How does he qualifies to write such a book? He does have an ivy league education, and a short time as a corporate slave, that's about it. Obviously to work 4 hours a week to need to get some business going. But then you don't even need to work 4 hours. I think there's a misunderstanding by the book buyers. He's telling you the methodology to work 4 hours a week, not how to make enough money so that you don't need to work so much hours!

It's so obvious to me that the book is another of his business. He's doing it to finance his working 4 hours a week. But he's not telling you how to find money. Do I need somebody to tell me how to work 4 hours a week when I have enough money?

It look so like infomercial, for example, the bald guy who sell you a stock market analysis and trading software tool that guarantee you to make money. But if you get an edge in the stock market, do you really need to tell others charging $50 each? But who cares, USA is a self help country. If you have something to say that will improve people's life, earnings, or wrinkles, the infomercial will work, books will sell.

But I understand. The infomercial guru, who wrote books about non effective drugs, and effective alternative treatments that the drug company don't want you to know. He was investigated by the FDA, banned from doing many things. He found a way to get back to American satellite TV via a British broadcasting company. He sells new books about weight loss, but bundled with his old alternative medicines books for free, but most of the time he talked about the old books rather than the new one. Obviously he got around some loop holes to continue his ways. Accidentally finding myself watching him when his ad popped-up, he did have some points. But it was like brain washing.

So how many people will treat books and infomercial as brain washing Trojan horses. Your teacher says you always have to have a critical mind. You should be critical before you open yourself to possible brain washing. It's easier to be critical before watching or reading than while you were being brain wash. When you were eating popcorns, you will be much less critical about the movie. But then, if you don't read it for yourself, you may never know, or miss out. That's the whole point. People are afraid to miss out big, but not afraid to to lose a few dollars to buy a book. That's how authors earn big money.

As for the content, he doesn't review much outside of the book, or he doesn't have much to offer. I didn't read it, don't want to buy it as a principle. The big things he used for promotion was - read email only twice a day! Oh my god! I couldn't agree more. People used to do it when they login first thing in the morning, and logout when they go home, before Windows or Dos. But do I need to buy a book for this? Get a paperless life by opting for online statements. Who doesn't? Pay a dollar to get yourself off junk mails. Well, I don't know that. Maybe the book is worth it after all. Wait a minute, what's that to do with working 4 hours a week? Light years apart.

As for the underlining big picture, there's nothing new as opposite to what Tim says. Living simple was already a movement, or a trend, since the last boom and bust economic cycle, maybe a lot earlier than that. Maybe the boom of the late 90's made people forget all about it.

Outsourcing is big, but he promotes it down to personal level. Pay somebody to do your laundry for you for each piece of work. Pay a peanut salary for an well educated Indian as your remote personal assistant. Advertise on Craig's List to find somebody to cook authentic Curry Vandaloo for you for a few dollars a meal. Most of these won't work for the majority of people, or, it wouldn't worth it.

I think he's big because he used the Internet quite well. He has a huge geek following as he called himself the new rich of the digital age. Every webmaster big and small dreams to be him, harding working at all, spent most of his time flash packing all over the world. So he got great exposure on the net, all giving him positive mentions without discussing substance of the contents.

Excuse me, but I have to pick on him about his substance. He made videos and that's suppose not to be easy to forget. One video is about teaching pen flipping, that's what all students in Asia do. Is he real? They are doing it for generations already. If you give a Japanese retired CEO a pen, he will flip it unconsciously. The other video is about how to wear a tie properly - the Windor knot. Oh please! Every British male do that, as do all males the world over except for Americans. It's the same thing that the American turn cricket to baseball, and soccer/ruby into football. You won't find any other men if the world who would wear an unsymmetrical tie. If you do, he is the sort of person who would be proud of the American way, and he will call it the American style.

Let me share with you a practical proverb. Doing most things is like paddling against the river flow, if you don't go forward, you will be carried backwards. By all means look for a balanced life, but trying to keep still on a flowing river is not wise.